12/25/19 Kees De Joncheere

Century of Lies
Kees De Joncheere
Drug War Facts

On this installment of Century of Lies, we hear from Kees De Joncheere, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, plus Just Say Know parts one through four by DrugReporter and the Rights Reporter Foundation.

Audio file



DECEMBER 25, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization – the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of www.drugwarfacts.org.

We are coming to the end of 2019 and before we start I want to thank everyone out there. All of our listeners, all of our guests, all of our friends and family – thank you for your support. You are the listener and you make it all worth it. Now let’s get on with the show.

Friends of mine – I do have friends you know. Friends of mine at the Rights Reporter Foundation in Hungary have a project called Drug Reporter. You can find them at: www.drugreporter.net. Peter Sarosi and Istvan Gabor are civil and human rights activists who have been recording and producing videos for years now on drug policy, human rights, and harm reduction. They have a video series called Just Say Know as in K-N-O-W and its brilliant. Fortunately they licensed their content via Creative Commons and allow reuse with attribution so right now let's hear from Drug Reporter. This is Part One of Just Say Know – What are drugs:

PETER SAROSI: What are drugs? This question seems to be self-evident but you soon realize that it is more complicated than you thought. When people think about drugs they usually associate to plants, pills, injections, liquids, and powders and actually these are only the forms in which drugs are used. They don’t tell much about what drugs really are and how are they different from other things such as bread or tomato. According to the broad definition, drugs can be everything that change how your body works. Some drugs are psychoactive and that means that they alter how your brain and mind works. They are like keys that fit in to special locks in your nerve cells called receptors. This way psychoactive drugs activate or block the release of certain molecules produced by our body which change our mood, our perception, and our behavior. However, there are a whole lot of other things that can change our mood and perception such as eating foods, falling in love, or even riding a bicycle. That’s why people can get addicted to certain behaviors or even to people. Drugs can be sorted in to different categories according to how they change our minds. Stimulant drugs such as cocaine or amphetamine increase our energy and alertness. Depressant drugs such as alcohol or heroin repress our arousal and stimulation. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD or mushroom change the ordinary way that we perceive reality and can trigger mystical experiences. However, the lines are not always clear cut. For example, alcohol can act both as a depressant and a stimulant. What is really important to understand is that even the same drugs can act in very different ways depending on three factors; set, setting, and dose. Set is your mental and physical condition, your expectations, and your mindset. Setting is the environment in which you use drugs including the people with whom you use drugs. Dose is how much drugs you use. Even one of these factors can make the least harmful substance become lethal. For example, water can be toxic if you drink too much. The ancient Greeks knew this. Their word for drug is farmako which means both medicine and poison. It was also the name of a human scapegoat which was sacrificed to purify the community from its sins. So the meaning of drugs has been ambiguous from the ancient times. Today most drugs can be used for both medicine and recreational purposes. For example, cannabis as medicine can treat steroid resistant multiplex but it can also help you to relax after a hard day. MDMA can be used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but when it is used by young people at dance festivals it is called ecstasy and it is considered a dangerous, illegal drug. The molecular structure of Adderall, a medication widely used to treat young people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is very similar to a street drug called “Ice” methamphetamine which is an illegal drug and its users are criminalized. So the difference again is not in the molecular structure of drugs but how people perceive these drugs and how we use them. Many people think that illegal drugs are more dangerous than legal drugs but this is not the case. Professor David Nutt and his colleagues assessed the risks of 20 popular illegal and legal substances and they found that some legal substances such as tobacco or alcohol were among the most harmful substances while some illegal substances such as cannabis or ecstasy were among the least harmful substances. So if it is not about the risks why some drugs are legal and others are illegal. In the next video we will tell you the story. Please stay with us on Drug Reporter, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

DOUG MCVAY: Now for Part Two: Why are Some Drugs Illegal?

PETER SAROSI: Have you ever wondered why some drugs are illegal and others are not? Because illegal drugs are more dangerous you may think but you are wrong. It is important to understand that the legal status of a drug has nothing to do with the risk it carries.

Although mind altering substances are as old as human civilization they are known to virtually all cultures in the world. The attitudes to drugs and drug users have been changing throughout history. Only a few people know that when coffee arrived to Europe it was banned by many European countries. For example, in 1623 Murad IV, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire banned coffee drinking and established a system to punish its users. Gustav III, the King of Sweden also banned the drinking of coffee and tea because of excessive and misuse of drinking of coffee and tea. When tobacco – a plant native to America – arrived to Europe in the 16th Century, it was also banned in most European countries. Pipe smoking was not only punishable by death but it was declared an evil custom by the Pope himself.

After a brief period of prohibition, tobacco was completely legalized. It even reached a point in the mid-20th Century that tobacco products were advertised with a picture of babies and with doctors who were telling you how good it is for your health. It took another half century to convince people that tobacco is actually harmful for your health and now governments increasingly control its use and distribution.

Alcohol – one of the most popular drugs in the Western world – was brought under federal prohibition in the United States in 1919. President Roosevelt decided to legalize it in 1933 and it was not because he realized it is not a dangerous substance but because prohibition created a huge black market feeding violent criminals such as Al Capone. That was a long time ago in the early 20th Century. Currently illegal drugs such as opium and cannabis were legal. You could walk in to a drug store and buy them. Soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Vin Mariani contained cocaine. By the second half of the 20th Century, most countries outlawed non-medical and non-scientific use of these substances. Why some drugs became illegal was not because of science; it was more because of racial prejudices. For example, the first opium ban in San Francisco was introduced because of the fear of Chinese migrant workers. The first cannabis ban was because of the fear of Mexican migrant workers. The first cocaine ban was because of the myth of black people raping white women under the influence of cocaine. The United States of America played an important role in exporting prohibition and framing the international drug control system marked by three United Nations drug conventions that made the non-scientific and non-medical use of certain substances illegal.

Those drugs that were used by Europeans such as alcohol and tobacco remained legal while drugs used by non-European cultures such as coca leaf were declared illegal and to be eradicated. Drug prohibition is not a successful system. Part of the next step is the Just Say Know series and you will learn why. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share this video with your friends.

DOUG MCVAY: This is Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay. We are listening to the Just Say Know series by the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter. The voice is Peter Sarosi. Now for Part Three: Five Reasons Why We Cannot Make the World Drug free.

PETER SAROSI: A drug free world – we can do it. This was the slogan of the United Nations Drug Summit in 1998, where governments adopted an action plan to eliminate or significantly reduce drug use and drug trafficking. Many world leaders still believe that they can get rid of drugs once and for all but history teaches us another lesson. In this video we will present you five arguments why the pursuit of a drug free world is not only an utter failure but a harmful experience for humankind.

First, drug prohibition simply doesn’t work. Although it is estimated that 100 billion dollars are spent on drug law enforcement every year we could not eliminate or even significantly reduce drug use and drug trafficking. According to an explanation given by the experts at the London School of Economics in a world with constant demand for drugs the harder you try to suppress the supply, the more lucrative you make the market for criminals.

Second, drug prohibition creates a huge black market the size of which is estimated to be 300 billion dollars every year. This is the single largest illicit market on earth enriching criminal organizations that are responsible for growing violence across the world. In Mexico for example, the government declared a war on drugs in 2006 and tens of thousands of innocent people were killed. In some Central American countries where the murder rate is the highest on earth illicit drug trafficking is a major factor behind violence. Money generated by illicit drug trafficking is laundered by big banks increasing inflation and weakening economies.

Third, the global war on drugs undermines development and fuels civil wars. Warlords, insurrectionists, and terrorist groups are funded by illicit opium production in Afghanistan and Myanmar. Guerilla and paramilitary groups profit from illicit cocaine production in Latin America. Cocaine is often smuggled to Europe through West Africa where poor countries are turned in to “Narco” states. Aggressive eradication campaigns could not eliminate drug cultivation in producing countries but they did take away the livelihood of the farmers and contribute to deforestation and pollution.

Fourth, the global war on drugs leads to human rights violations. 1,000 people are executed every year for drug related charges in the world. 500,000 people are detained in so called rehabilitation centers in Southeast Asia where they are often abused in the name of treatment. The war on drugs fuels mass incarceration in many countries. For example, the United States has 5% of the global population but 25% of the global prison population. The negative consequences always fall the heaviest on minorities. African American men in the U.S. are sent to prison for drug charges 13 times the rate of white men.

Fifth, criminalization and repression threatens public health and pushes people who use drugs to take more risks. The black market generates ever more potent and risky substances often cut with contaminates encouraging high risk behaviors in unsupervised and unhygienic environments. As a result, Americans are now more likely to die of a drug overdose than in a car accident. Outside of sub Saharan Africa, the sharing of injecting equipment accounts for one-third of new HIV infections. Criminalization undermines efforts to stop the epidemic. Some people think the idea of a drug free world is a nice dream like world peace but they are wrong. This dream turned to be a nightmare. Leaders of the world must fix the dangerous dependence on repression but what are the alternatives? We will explore them in the next episode of the Just Say Know series. Please share this video with your friends. Stay with us. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

DOUG MCVAY: Here now is Part Four: What is Harm Reduction?

PETER SAROSI: In the latest episode of the Just Say Know series we explain why punitive drug policies don’t work. Now we present you an alternative approach to drugs and people who use them based on the principals of harm reduction.

Harm reduction is not only applicable to drugs but to several other activities involving high risk. For example, it is also harm reduction when you drive a car and you fasten your seat belt, or when you ride a bicycle and you wear a helmet. Similarly, you can provide people who use drugs with sterile needles and syringes to prevent blood borne infections such as Hepatitis C or HIV. This is called Needle Exchange. Or you can prescribe opioid medications such as methadone, or even diacetyl morphine which is the medical form of heroin to heroin dependent people to prevent them from buying dangerous drugs in the black market. This is called opiate substitute treatment and it is not only affective in improving the health and well-being of patients but also in reducing crime.

You can train people how to use naloxone, an antidote that can be used to reduce the effects of heroin overdose to save lives.

You can test illegal drugs for adulterants to prevent accidental poisoning. This is called drug checking service.

We can create hygienic and safer environments where people can use their own drugs with sterile equipment under medical supervision so we can prevent overdoses and infections. This is called drug consumption room.

Harm reduction can not only reduce the negative consequences of drug use itself but also the harms of depressive drug policies. It’s also harm reduction when we mobilize the communities of vulnerable drug users and empower them to fight for their rights.

Harm reduction is often contrasted with abstinence and recovery but that’s not true. They are not opposites. For some people, abstinence might be the only right choice but other people may not be ready or they don’t want to quit drug use.

Most people who use drugs are not dependent. Dependence is often associated with childhood traumas, social marginalization, and poverty. When you ask a person who lives on the street to quit drug use it’s like asking someone to go in to the storm without an umbrella or remove his hat in the desert.

Harm reduction is also essential for long time recovery. These programs reach out to drug users on the street and they serve as the first step to other services. Therefore, they need to be part of an integrated drug treatment system. Harm reduction is a philosophy that is based on compassionate pragmatism. This means that we would like to help people where they are at as fellow citizens in need of help while treating them with respect without shaming or judging them.

Countries that moved away from repressing drug policies and provide a wide access to harm reduction programs for drug users could significantly reduce death and suffering related to drugs. In the next episode of Just Say Know we will provide you examples of how. Stay with us. Follow us on the www.drugreporter.net, on our Facebook and Twitter channels and support us so we can do videos like this one.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the voice of Peter Sarosi with the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter with their Just Say Know series. Their videos are posted at YouTube and on their website at: www.drugreporter.net. It is an excellent resource that I highly recommend. You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of www.drugwarfacts.org

Now I was hoping to bring you a couple of interviews this week but I just couldn’t get them on to this week’s show so we’ll have those for you next week. Meanwhile, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna for its reconvened 62nd Session on December 12th and 13th. This meeting was held in conjunction with the U.N.’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which was holding its reconvened 28th Session. According to the UNODC website, “The CND and CCPCJ are functional commissions of the United Nations Economic and Social Counsel or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and governing bodies of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime”. Loyal listeners will recall that I have long complained that U.S. drug policy is viewed first and foremost as a criminal justice concern. I mean sure, policy makers have learned to say the right buzz words. Even drug warriors these days will say that drug use is a health concern and we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problems. All true – and yet the Senate Judiciary Committee still has oversight authority over the U.S. office on National Drug Control Policy. Similarly, at the international level responsible for drug policy is handed to UNODC rather than the World Health Organization. I mention this because that’s the thing about buzz words and catch phrases; anyone can use them. The meanings can sometimes be diluted and even lost. It’s called co-option. That is appropriating something or some idea as one’s own. When people say that we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem if they are not really working to stop drug arrests then they are just bloviating. For the longest time drug policy reformers were ecstatic when a politician would just avoid calling us by our names and talking bad about our mommas. Then finally some politicians started to notice that drug policy reform is more than just a very good idea – the time for which has come – it’s popular with people. So they picked up on the buzz words and the catch phrases and we celebrated because they were saying the right things but you know talk is cheap. Actions are what count. They are deeds. That is my rant for the day. Now as I climb off my high horse, let’s hear a portion of that recent meeting of the U.N.s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Here is the President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Kees De Joncheere.

KEES DE JONCHEERE: Just a few weeks ago at our 126th Session we finalized the INCB Annual Reports for 2019. I look forward to presenting these to the Commission in March 2020, and sharing them in advance with the permanent missions in February. Our automatic chapter this year focuses on improving prevention and treatment services for young people. Also at our session we decided to recommend to the Commission the international control of MAPA, Methyl Alpha Phenyl Acetoacetate. A precursor use in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine and methamphetamine. I will brief you more in detail on this matter later under Agenda Item 9. I will highlight again the need for a more encompassing solution to address the continuing emergence of designer precursors used in illicit drug manufacturing. The Commission’s ministerial declaration of March this year and the 2016 Special Session of the General Assembly both reaffirmed the centrality of the three conventions to international drug control and the importance of ensuring availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes while preventing their diversion trafficking illicit production and manufacture and abuse. INCB continues to engage and redouble its dialog with member states towards achieving the implementation of the three international drug control convention in what is becoming an increasingly complex environment. In 2019, we had the opportunity to conduct 15 country missions thanks to the cooperation of governments in accepting our proposed missions and organizing constructive programs and we greatly appreciate this opportunity to engage more in detail with countries around their national situation on drugs. We are also pleased to meet with civil society representatives during our missions to the countries and here in Vienna, which we have done at the meetings of the Commission for many years and in our May sessions this and last year – a practice that we hope to continue. Equally, we are pleased with the outcome of our open dialogue meetings with member states that we have now held for two years during the boards November session and again a practice that we look forward to continuing.

Our last year’s supplement expressed our concern about the global imbalance in availability of controlled substances for medical purposes which still prevails. While some progress is observed, much remains to be done and we really look forward with UNODC and WHO to further join us in this area that we can together intensify our efforts to improve this situation.

Through the INCB Learning Program, we have trained over 337 officials from 88 countries and territories towards improving the regulatory control and reporting related to international trade and internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes. With support of the Russian Federation, we recently completed a successful training course in Moscow for many of the Russian speaking countries. We are pretty grateful for that. The regional training seminars and national awareness raising workshops delivered in cooperation with WHO and UNODC are aimed at building capacity and knowledge to improve the availability for medical use while preventing diversion and abuse. E-learning modules are available for national authorities to use on demand.

This area of work is largely funded by extra budgetary contributions for which the board expresses its gratitude. At UNODC we also established the international import/export authorization system, the High to ES, to facilitate the electronic exchange of import and export authorizations between trading partners. This should contribute to improving the availability for medical purposes. With increased take up and used by national authorities of this free of charge system the administrative load associated with paper-based international control requirements will be significantly diminished. And again, INCB learning and High to ES depend on your active participation as countries earn financial support.

The INCB Pre-export notification depend online systems and the precursors (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as well as the task forces help governments monitor and control illicit international movement of precursors. These activities which have been underway for the past three decades support governments in implementing the Article 12 of the 1988 Convention and is largely funded by your extra budgetary contributions for which again, we are very grateful. The INCB project ion and its ionic system are helping your national authorities address the ongoing emergence of new psychoactive substances. We are working to address the challenge posed by the nomatical synthetic opioids. I look forward to your continued collaboration in these areas.

In closing, allow me to say that the international community can feel proud of its achievements in agreeing to and implementing two to three international drug control conventions. Yet we should also be concerned about the mounting new challenges that we are all facing. The emergence of the new classes of synthetic drugs that are changing the world drug landscape. The enormous illegal drug market and the links with organized crime, the role of dark web and internet purchasing, but also the developments of legalizing cannabis for nonmedical use from which the board has repeatedly indicated that this is not in line with the conventions. As the international community just celebrated World AIDs Day and World Human Rights Day, I also want to stress that actions carried out in the name of drug control must not violate human rights. In our 2019 Annual Report, WHO reiterates the importance of ensuring that drug control efforts fully respect human rights. We again urge the immediate cessation of extra judicial actions against suspected drug related behavior and again call on countries that maintain capital punishment for related drug offenses to consider abolishing that. Any drug control activity that violates human rights also violates the drug control conventions. With that, I thank you. I wish you a very fruitful meeting. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Kees De Joncheere, President of the INCB addressing the reconvened 62nd Session on Narcotic Drugs which met in Vienna December 12th and 13th.

That’s it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at www.drugtruth.net. I am your host, Doug McVay, editor of www.drugwarfacts.org. The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at www.drugtruth.net

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.